DOWNEY – There’s a reason popular lore has the inhabitants of heaven playing harps. Its sound is pure and beautiful and creates a strong feeling of peace and harmony. The Downey Symphony’s concert on Saturday, Jan. 24, at the Downey Theatre, offers harp music at its best. The brilliant LA-based harpist Alison Bjorkedal will perform Debussy’s “Sacred and Profane Dances,” music so beautiful one can well imagine its being played in heaven.
Bjorkdal reports she was fortunate that someone had donated a harp to the school in the small Washington town where she was raised. She fell in love with the instrument and eventually received a doctorate in harp from USC’s Thornton School of Music. She says that the harp’s resonance “creates an intimate feel with an audience that leaves them relaxed but alert.”
Bjorkdal has appeared on “The Tonight Show” and in a PBS special accompanying the singer Andrea Boccelli. She teaches at Pasadena City College and privately. She likes the versatility of the harp, which sounds good in many styles of music, from jazz to classical.
Bjorkdal has performed the world premiere of many harp pieces, including a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
“Being involved in the creative process today is important for performers and audiences,” she says. “We’re actively deciding where music goes from here, and that’s exciting.”
Her words are particularly relevant, since the Downey Symphony is proud to promote young American composers. The Jan. 24 concert features the world premiere of Bryan Kostors’ “Five Variations on Loss and Isolation.” Like Bjorkdal, Kostors grew up in Washington and started performing in rock bands. He began composing chamber music in college and that spurred an excitement that led to graduate degrees at UNLV and USC. He often takes inspiration from the natural world.
“Somebody said that every piece of music is about nature or a girl,” he laughed.
Independence, Calif., is home for him, his wife, and stepdaughter, and a number of his compositions reflect the Owens Valley and residents’ feelings about the devastating effects of diverting water from the Valley to Los Angeles.
His piece for the Symphony reflects a period when, he says, “I was studying in Las Vegas and had to deal with being isolated from my family and the things I was used to.” Some of his music can be heard at bryancurtkostors.com.
The Jan. 24 concert features the outstanding string players of the Downey Symphony. The program also includes pieces by the American composer Aaron Copland, a movement from Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No.5,” and Tchaikovsky’s much-loved “Serenade for Strings.”
An art exhibit co-sponsored with the Downey Arts Coalition under the title of “Reflections” can be viewed in the lobby before and after the concert and at intermission. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with a pre-concert talk by Sharon Lavery at 7:15 p.m.
Tickets may be purchased from the Downey Civic Theatre online at downeytheatre.org; by phone at (562) 861-8211; or in person, Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the box office, 8435 Firestone Blvd.
For full information about the concert go to downeysymphony.org.
Published: Jan. 8, 2015 - Volume 13 - Issue 39